A murmuration of starlings dances in waves across the screen at the front of the auditorium. In a dazzling display, thousands of the birds come together in chromatic choreography. The entire auditorium, filled with business executives, civil leaders, technologists, students, artists, and academics stares in awe, almost swaying with the birds on the screen.

Together, the starlings fend off predators and share warmth for the cold night ahead. Flocking is a solution that empowers them to tackle their collective challenges. It’s a metaphor for Don Tapscott‘s vision: our increasingly interconnected world—like the starlings—coming together to address complex global challenges.

Don’s opening session at the Global Solution Networks‘ Summit was almost hypnotically convincing of the new problem solving paradigm. However, the participants at this gathering were what was most encouraging. The room was teeming with leaders who commonly come together to debate our most intractable problems: climate change, unemployment, or education for all—and also a meaningful presence from both the government and the private sector, all acting on the belief that they have new and different roles to play in global problem solving than has historically been the case.

This is not merely a theory or academic hypothesis. It’s a new paradigm for how the global community can address our considerable challenges. We saw examples of this new dynamic during the Arab Spring, where technology enabled the masses to organize and rally without centralized leadership from a specific person or institution.

And we’ve also seen this in Kiva, a Global Solution Network addressing the challenge of access to finance for the poor through microloans made by individuals from around the world.

“With technology as the catalyst, traditional and non-traditional stakeholders are forming recombinant networks of problem-solvers.”

With technology as the catalyst, these traditional and non-traditional stakeholders are forming recombinant networks of problem-solvers.

Do these Global Solution Networks* know that they are labeled as such? No.

Does it matter? Not really.

What does matter is that those actors who have historically been at the center of global problem solving—including foundations, the UN, governments, and civil organizations—understand and leverage the power of these new and recombinant networks to accelerate our efforts at solving the incredible challenges in front of us.

While a “recombinant multi-stakeholder problem-solving network” may not look or sound as elegant as a murmuration of starlings, it’s an idea that will make our own species more resilient in the face of the chronic and acute shocks that lie ahead.

 

*The Rockefeller Foundation has supported the work of Global Solution Networks as part of its commitment to addressing the world’s challenges more effectively and to remaining at the forefront of nurturing and scaling innovation for social impact.

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